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Sustainable Materials at Scale: 100% Recycled Denali Fleece Prevents Waste on Multiple Fronts

Image credit: The North Face

Here at The North Face, we believe in making great outdoor gear in a sustainable and responsible way. That’s why we’ve set out to change the way outdoor apparel is made. We’ve set a bold goal to have 100 percent of our polyester (or 80 percent of all of the fabric we use for apparel) come from recycled content — from thousands of plastic bottles — by 2016. Repurposing plastic waste helps reduce carbon emissions and avoids using more open space for landfills. In 2014 alone, our use of recycled plastic will prevent 30 million plastic bottles from going to landfill.

We decided to start tackling the waste issue head on with our Denali jacket, one of The North Face brand’s best sellers, and asked ourselves what else we could be doing to make a more sustainable product at the same level of technical quality. In addition to designing Denali fleece to come from 100 percent recycled content, we’ve discovered a way to use the scraps from production (for every ten Denali Jackets produced, there is enough scrap to create four more jackets) and put it back into the jackets, reducing byproduct waste from the manufacturing process. We are also using a new dyeing process that uses up to 50 percent less water and chemicals, and an average of 25 percent less energy than traditional methods.

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Why are we doing this? Of course, recycled polyester has a lower impact on air, soil and water resources than virgin polyester. But designing products for and with repurposed materials is the next frontier for our sustainable product journey and the Denali Jacket is just one small piece of the puzzle. We wanted to learn how we could turn plastic bottles into technical fabric for Denali fleece, and whether or not the new materials would maintain the look, color and feel that the Denali is known for. Would the recycled fabric’s pile separation and stretch stand up to our rigorous testing standards? As it turns out, the recycled fleece passed the tests with flying colors.

Watch this “behind the seams” video to learn more about the story of our 100 percent recycled Denali jacket fleece and the ways The North Face is reducing waste, water and chemicals use in its manufacturing and design processes. Recycled fleece for the Denali jacket is just one part of our ongoing sustainable products journey.

Adam Mott oversees the Corporate Sustainability program at The North Face. Corporate Sustainability was formalized as a natural extension of the brand's rich history in conservation and philanthropy. The North Face's ultimate goal is to protect the health and longevity… [Read more about Adam Mott]

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